Cruise Ship Secret Codes (inc Emergency & Naughty Ones too)

We all know the cruise ship crew uses secret code words onboard to communicate with each other without raising concerns amongst the relaxing passengers.

Perhaps you have heard them yourself over the tannoys.

I, too have wondered what some of the codes mean, so I’ve researched them all.

Plus, as well as the codes the crew use, did you know some cheeky codes are used amongst the guests?  Oh yes! Well, we’ll cover those too!

Cruise Ship Secret Codes

Cruise Ship Emergency Codes

Some cruise ships have their own specific codes unique to the cruise line, although they are typically a variation on the most used universal version of the code.


A code 30-30 will be the crew contacting maintenance to clear up a mess that could be hazardous to passing guests, for example, if someone slips on a wet floor.

Code Adam 

Code Adam is used if there is a missing child onboard.   

This code originates from the abduction (and murder) of a child in the early 1980s, Adam Walsh, which also resulted in a Code Adam missing child safety program.

Code Alpha

If you hear a code alpha on a cruise ship, there is a medical emergency onboard.

Many cruise lines have their own secret code for this, including the following.

Royal Caribbean has the code “Alpha, Alpha, Alpha.” 

Oceania Cruises are known to use “Code Mike” instead of Alpha to signify a medical emergency.

Celebrity Cruises use “Star Code, Star Code, Star Code”.

Medical Emergency Button
Code alpha is a medical emergency

Code Blue

A code blue is usually used to signify some sort of medical emergency onboard the ship.

This would indicate to staff to take the required actions for the safety and well-being of the person, guest, or crew member as calmly and discreetly as possible.

Bravo, Bravo, Bravo 

The code Bravo, Bravo Bravo is a subtle way for the crew to alert other crew members that there is a fire onboard or a similar serious emergency.

Fire Extinguishers

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie

The code “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” is used if there is a security threat onboard the ship.  It is known to be used on Royal Caribbean ships.  

It can also signal forthcoming helicopter winch operations aboard c-bed accommodation ships.

Delta, Delta, Delta

The crew uses the code “Delta, Delta, Delta” to signal to each other there has been or there is the possibility of a biohazard.

This could mean there has been some form of accident or event causing pollution from the ship.

Delta, Delta, Delta can also be used to secretly communicate the ship’s hull has suffered damage.

In some instances “Code Papa” is known to have been used to signify the same thing, an oil spillage or pollution-related incident.

Code Echo

A code Echo or “Echo, Echo, Echo” communicates that the ship is starting to drift.  This is often due to strong winds.  It’s important because it could indicate the ship is about to collide with the port or possibly another ship, accident no one wants to happen.

It can also act as a code to make the crew operate the gangway or the ship’s navigation to be ready to take action and maneuver the ship.

Code Kilo

A code Kilo or specifically “Kilo, Kilo, Kilo” on Royal Caribbean ships signifies to crew to get to assigned emergency posts

These will have been pre-designated in previous crew training and will alert the crew and get them in a position to take whatever actions may be deemed necessary from there.

Mr Mob

The code Mr Mob stands for “Man Overboard.”  Someone has fallen overboard.

This is a very serious incident, and the ship may also sound its horn three times which would give a wider indication that there was an onboard emergency to other nearby ships as well.

Man Overboard Notice and Alarm

Code Oscar

If you hear the crew calling the code “Oscar” or specifically “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships it means there is a man overboard.

Purell, Purell, Purell   

It is a code used when an urgent clean-up is required, for example, if someone has vomited in a public area.

Another code meaning the same thing is “PVI,” which stands for “Public Vomiting Incident”.

Or sometimes, simply “Code V” is used.

Operation Bright Star

The code Operation Bright star will only be used by medical staff who are using the code to call other medical team members to assist with a specific medical incident such as a stroke or heart attack.

Disney Cruise Line are known to use code bright star to signal a serious stroke heart related or medical emergency onboard.

Operation Rising Star

Is code on some ships to communicate there has been a death on the ship.  

If a passenger dies onboard a ship, their body will be held in the ship’s morgue.

Sometimes the code “Bright Star” or “Fallen star” is used to signify someone has died.

cruise ship morgues

Code Red

A code red indicated an outbreak of illness on board the ship.   This could be an instance of norovirus onboard the ship.

When there is a code red, sick passengers will be confined to their rooms until their illness has been deemed to pass.

The ship may undertake extra deep cleaning to contain the spread as much as possible.

Code Red Parties

The code “Red Parties, Red Parties, Red Parties” is reportedly used by Disney Cruise lines to indicate a fire onboard.

On other ships, it can mean fire at sea.

Code Sierra

A code Sierra indicated a specific type of medical emergency, one that requires a stretcher.

If it is a serious medical emergency, you may well hear the other code words to signify that as well.

Code Yellow

A code yellow is sometimes used to indicate an illness that isn’t so serious.  

Zulu Zulu Zulu

Code Zulu Zulu Zulu is a warning to crew members there is a fight incident onboard.  

Pool Emergency Codes

Code Baby Ruth

I don’t know if Code Baby Ruth is 100% genuinely used, but if it is, it is to raise awareness among staff that there is a “poo” in the pool.

It might just be a myth that stems from this movie scene from Caddyshack.

Here’s a funny clip:

There are also reports that a “Code Winnie” is a secret code for a poo in the pool on Disney Cruise Lines.  Again this might just be a joke.

Royal Caribbean Emergency Codes

Codes specifically used by Royal Caribbean include:

  • Alpha, Alpha, Alpha – Medical Emergency
  • Charlie, Charlie, Charlie – Security threat
  • Echo, Echo, Echo – ship is drifting
  • Kilo, Kilo, Kilo – crew to report to emergency posts
  • Oscar, Oscar, Oscar – man overboard.

As you can see, they make a point of repeating the secret code word three times which makes them different from most other cruise lines.

Carnival Cruise Emergency Codes

As well as using the main typical emergency codes outlined, Carnival has some of its own for specific situations:

  • Alpha Team, Alpha Team, Alpha Team – fire onboard
  • Operation Brightstar – for medical emergencies related to stroke or heart attack, cardiac arrest

Norwegian Cruise Line Emergency Codes

NCL also has a couple of its own secret codes, including:

  • Delta – there’s been damage to the ship
  • Papa – there’s been an environmental incident

Why do Cruise Ships Use Secret Codes?

The crew of a cruise ship use secret codes to communicate so as not to cause unnecessary anxiety or even panic among guests.

They enable the crew to discreetly start taking action.  

For example, if the crew was calling “man overboard,” you can be sure alerted passengers would rush to take a look, and perhaps the crowd would hinder and slow down any emergency rescue attempts.

A much-publicized incident without codes might also create panic and urgency for some people, who might immediately start worrying and looking for their loved ones.

The crew will be able to act alot more efficiently and discreetly by using these secret codes.

First aid kit for medical emergency

What is the Code for Fire on a Cruise Ship?

Fire is the biggest threat to a cruise ship and one no cruise captain ever wants to hear or have to alert the crew about.  

Most cruise lines use “Bravo, Bravo, Bravo” to indicate a fire onboard. 

Carnival cruise use “Alpha Team, Alpha Team, Alpha Team” as their secret code to alert the crew to fire.

Cunard uses the code “Priority 1” to indicate a fire onboard.

Disney Cruise lines “Red Parties, Red Parties, Red Parties” as their secret code to indicate a fire onboard.

What Code is Used if Someone Has Died on a Cruise Ship?

Codes used when someone has died onboard vary by the cruise line.

If say, an old person has passed away, you might hear these code words: 

  • Operation Rising Star
  • Fallen star

Secret Codes on Cruise Ship Doors

Did you know some symbols act as potential secret codes between passengers, and some could be deemed a bit “naughty?”

Upsidedown Pineapple: This is a secret code symbol used between swingers, both on land but also on cruise ship door decorations and sometimes other attire.

You can find out more here about the meaning of an upside-down pineapple on a cruise and other hidden meaning symbols and codes you might spot.

Pink Flamingoes are another lesser-known symbol among swingers on cruises, indicating they are into the lifestyle.

To Conclude

There are many codes you may hear on a cruise ship, but in reality, you will rarely hear most of them.  

Instead, you are possibly more likely to hear them used in dramatic scenes on Tv and possibly wonder exactly what they mean.

Are there any codes we missed?  

Please let us know in the comments so we can add them.

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